WHO: Saint Joseph’s Hawks (2-2) vs. LIU Brooklyn Blackbirds (0-1)
WHEN: 7 p.m. Tuesday
WHERE: Hagan Arena
RADIO: Sports Radio 610 WIP
After a bad start to the game against Vermont, and coming off an even worse loss at 13th-ranked Gonzaga, the Hawks picked themselves up off the mat and came back swinging.
Falling behind by 10 points within three minutes, the Hawks outscored the Catamounts by 18 points over the final 37 minutes to earn a much-needed home win, 68-60.
“It’s a great feeling to come back here and get a win,” junior forward Isaiah Miles said. “It shows everyone that we bounce back. We don’t hold our heads in the mud after a loss like that. We continued to compete.”
Miles was one of several Hawks to turn his recent shooting form around once back home. The junior buried three three-pointers, including two late in the first half to push the Hawks in front, en route to a 15-point performance.
DeAndre Bembry was another. After scoring 26 points in the first three games combined, Bembry exploded for 22 points against the Catamounts, throwing down a monstrous dunk in transition and settling in to find a rhythm on his jump shots. The Hawks shot 45 percent as a team after halftime.
“We’ve got some good players on this team, so you know it’s going to come eventually” said point guard Chris Wilson, who added five points and five assists. “DeAndre’s going to make shots. Aaron [Brown] attacks the rim aggressively. [Isaiah], when you can shoot that good, the ball will eventually start dropping.”
But even on a night where the Hawks hit a season high for points, all the postgame talk was of the St. Joe’s defense. The Hawks’ pressure forced 18 Catamount turnovers, which produced 19 St. Joe’s points. The Hawks registered 13 steals on the night.
“It all starts in practice,” Miles explained. “We work hard in practices. Coach [Phil Martelli] says it a lot: he has no problem with how hard we work in practice. We’re a hard-working group. In our press, we have a lot of active guys and a lot of quick hands, a lot of athletic guys. Steals are going to come, especially with our pressure.”
The Hawks hope to keep the defensive pressure high when the Blackbirds of LIU-Brooklyn come calling Tuesday night. The Blackbirds, who have only played one game thus far this season, were picked to finish 8th in the 10-team Northeastern Conference – one spot above the Hawks’ season-opening opponent, Fairleigh Dickinson.
LIU-Brooklyn’s one game this year was a loss to St. John’s. The Red Storm held the Blackbirds to 29.6 percent shooting from the floor en route to a 66-53 victory. Gerrell Martin, the leading returning scorer from a year ago, led the Blackbirds with 14 points.
For the Hawks, the game will mark their fifth in 12 days to start the season. And while that may be a tough stretch for such a young team, Martelli believes his team is now settling into a rhythm.
“I really liked the eyes of our team,” the coach explained after the win over Vermont. “The cloud that was in their eyes [at Gonzaga] was the same thing last Friday night [against Fairleigh Dickinson], not wide eyes but eyes of doubt.”
With those “eyes of doubt” behind them, St. Joe’s looks to climb above .500 for the first time this season.
James Hill covers Saint Joseph’s basketball for Philahoops. Find him on Twitter @jrhill17 or leave a comment below.